Wednesday, 26 October 2011

In a Better World

Elias and Christian.
The RBC Film Club’s offering on Monday was introduced with a deft sparkling touch by Mr Steven Pickering, which cleverly veiled the seriousness of the significantly disturbing film that was to follow. In a Better World (2010) won Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, which was a great achievement considering it was up against such splendid fair as the Mexico’s Biutiful and Greece’s wonderful Dogtooth. Directed by Dane Susanne Bier, best known by the author for her 2004 film Brothers a movie which not only shares the actor Ulrich Thomson but also the writer Anders Thomas Jenson with her latest movie. This family relationship drama tackles such thorny subjects as violence, bullying, pacifism and religion in the form of “turning the other cheek” and the rights and wrongs of retribution, in fact the Danish title of this film, Haevnen, translates as vengeance!

Filmed in both Denmark and Kenya it brings together the story of two dysfunctional families from very different worlds. Anton (Swedish actor Mikael Persbrant) is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. Anton and his wife Marianne (actress and singer Trine Dyrholm) have two young sons, are separated and struggling with the possibility of divorce. Their older, ten-year-old son Elias (Markus Rygaad) is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian (William Johnk Juels Nielsen), a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus (Thomson) and whose mother has recently lost her battle with cancer. The two boys quickly form a strong bond when Christian involves Elias in a violent act of revenge.

This very well acted movie, produced by Zentropa the company responsible for producing much of Lars von Triers work, is a film about the effects of a death rather than the understanding of life. Christian’s repressed emotions, pain and perception of his mother’s untimely death is the driver for some potentially tragic consequences. My problem with this film is twofold, firstly the narrative is a little to obvious for instance when the two boys climb the grain silo you just know that that there’s going to be a significant purpose for this action. Secondly why was the bombing of the van in a public street described as an act of vandalism and consequently both the boys went unpunished?  The director stated that she set out to explore the limitations we encounter in trying to control our society as well as our personal lives. She also asks whether our own "advanced" culture is the model for a better world, or whether the same disarray found in lawlessness is lurking beneath the surface of our civilization. Are we immune to chaos, or obliviously teetering on the verge of disorder? Our own government following the resent riots is asking much the same questions. I’m afraid the film did not really resolve these matters.   Although an intelligent drama, it deserved to conclude with a little more intensity rather than a liberal whimper.
Claus and Christian.

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